Marquetry is the art of inlaying or veneering wood. There are arguments about where it originated but it has been known in Egypt and the Far East for over 2000 years. It was introduced from Persia to Venice in the 14th century, spreading from there to Florence, in France and then to Germany, Holland and the rest of Europe.

Marquetry is derived from the ancient craft of intarsia, which is the inlaying of precious or exotic materials into solid wood. Intarsia was practiced by the Egyptians 3000 years ago. In the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamon, the throne, chest, coffers, and much of the furniture are covered with inlay of, precious stones, glazed tiles, wood, gold and ivory.

Prior to the invention of the jigsaw in 16th century Germany, inlaying was done by highly skilled craftsmen who worked with imported rare and exotic hardwoods by carving hollows into the groundwork; sawing and slicing the expensive hardwoods into ¼ to ½ inch-thick tiles; fitting and setting them into the groundwork using glue; and then finally scraping, rubbing down, waxing, and burnishing their surface.

The jigsaw allowed the exotic hardwoods to be cut into thinner and thinner sheets, so that by the end of the 19th century thin inlayed veneers, or marquetry had become very popular.

Mar"quet*ry (?), n. [F. marqueterie, from marqueter to checker, inlay, fr. marque mark, sign; of German origin. See Mark a sign.]

Inlaid work; work inlaid with pieces of wood, shells, ivory, and the like, of several colors.

 

© Webster 1913.

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